What's On Tap?
The Boston Red Sox celebrated perhaps the most unlikely turnaround in sports history. They became the Amazin' Mets of the new millennium and a previously toxic clubhouse miraculously became peace, love and Kumbaya. But that's all a distant memory for those who like to bet sports and are happy to leave all the emotion to those who love sports, the athletes and their teams. Let's gaze deeply into our crystal ball and see whether these beloved Boston Red Sox will be defending their World Series title or crackin' open a cold one while watching two other teams vie for the coveted crown.
Pitching Wins Titles
While having a guy like Big Papi going nuclear at the right time doesn't hurt the cause, championship seasons begin and end with pitching. The Red Sox have plenty of it and will return their entire starting rotation. Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Jake Peavy and Felix Doubront comprise a fearsome five-some and all will return, barring a trade or injury, next season. In addition, the Sox have plenty of pitching talent and depth with Brandon Workman, Rubby De La Rosa and Allan Webster waiting in the wings.
The 14-million-dollar-a-year man Ryan Dempster is almost an afterthought at this point and will be used as trade bait for a hot ball girl and a few Louisville sluggers. If the Sox find no takers, he will be used as a middle relief man and a spot starter. The bullpen is stacked with lights out closer Koji Uehara leading a rock solid corps of relievers. Pitching appears to be Boston strong and should propel the team to contention next season unless of course the injury bug bites and derails this juggernaut.
Jacoby Ellsbury will be the most notable defection from Boston’s roster as he is looking for telephone book numbers for the foreseeable future. The Red Sox are now allergic to doling out big money contracts over an extended period of time after the spectacular failure of that same strategy when they heaped oodles of dough on Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez. They were able to find a willing dance partner in the LA Dodgers to assume those long-term deals and are terrified of repeating that mistake. While Ellsbury’s bat at the top of the lineup and speed on the base paths will be missed, the Sox brass is counting on the intriguing possibility that Jackie Bradley Jr. will be able to fill that rather large void.
As far as the other potential departures are concerned, the Sox are interested in retaining defensive wizard Stephen Drew despite his anemic hitting performance in the postseason. Big slugger Mike Napoli is still a consideration for the Red Sox particularly due to his steady improvement at first base during the course of last season. And finally, it appears as though Jarrod Saltalamacchia will be cut loose after veteran receiver David Ross took over the catching reigns when it counted. Nevertheless, the Sox will be on the hunt for an everyday catcher (hello Brian McCann?) but there is a slim chance that Salty could be back with the club at a team friendly deal.
Red Sox World Series Odds
The World Champions are not the favorites in MLB odds to repeat next season because that distinction belongs to the rebuilt LA Dodgers at 7-1. Next in line are the boys from Motown who clock in at a respectable 8-1. Third from the top are the Red Sox at 10-1 and you can plunk down a few bucks at either Bet365.com or WilliamHill.com if you want to get a very tasty return on your six-month investment.The bottom line in Boston is that their core group is intact and the pitching looks fierce. However, Messrs.’ Lester, Buchholz and Lackey have all had down years before and to believe the triumvirate will click on all cylinders as they did last season may be a bit much to ask. So for those looking to place their MLB picks, I like the 10-1 odds that the linesmen are dealing and heartily endorse another trip to the winners circle for Boston.